...So, what's your favorite bookstore?


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...So, what's your favorite bookstore?

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Jun 10, 2009, 4:03am

Hi there! I'm pretty new to LibraryThing, but only relatively new to Chicago--I've been going to school here for three years now (and you'll probably be able to guess which one just by my list of fave Chi bookstores!)

1. Myopic Books (I HAVE to go here any time I'm in Wicker Park, no questions asked. I never fail to leave here without at least three books in my arms!)
2. Seminary Co-Op (it's pricey, and having bought those shares only gives me a marginal 10% relief in my funds, but hey, it's a quarterly pilgrimage!)
3. Powell's 57th Street (I can spend HOURS poring over their American History section!)
4. 57th Street Books (I once stood in line for 2 hours to get Barack Obama to sign a copy of The Audacity of Hope, and it's one of my most cherished possessions! They also have a great selection of Dover Thrift Editions. $1-$2 each for a classic? I'll take it!)

So what bookstores are in YOUR neck of the woods that other Chicagoans should know about? I'd love to support some cool independent ones, used or new!

Jun 10, 2009, 9:11am

I'm in Hyde Park, so naturally Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books are at the top of my "new book" list. I'm also a fan of the Newberry Library Bookshop (the third jewel in Seminary Co-op's crown), Women and Children First in Andersonville, and Unabridged Books in Lakeview. If you have any interest in architecture, Prairie Avenue Bookshop is the place to go.

For used books, I go to Powell's (57th St.) and O'Gara & Wilson's, just down the block.

Jun 10, 2009, 9:29am

I spend most of my time (and book money) at Myopic, which is near where I live, and Afterwords (near State & Illinois), which is near where I work. For both stores, the big attraction for me are the newly-bought books in the front of store.

I also enjoy going over to Bookworks on Clark St. in Wrigleyville now and again, partly because of the friendly owners but also because they get some very nice first editions.

For new books, Unabridged and the Book Cellar (in Lincoln Square) are my recommendations. The staff in both stores clearly enjoy working there and Unabridged in particular has a phenomenal sale book selection.

Jun 10, 2009, 8:27pm

Thanks so much for your suggestions! From one Hyde Parker to another, I'm always looking for cool places on the Other Side.

The Newberry Library is definitely a pilgrimage I have yet to make. Shame on me...!
I checked out Unabridged's website, and it definitely looks like my kind of place to hang out. I hope I can pry away a few hours this summer to head up there and check it out (and spend all my money)!

Jun 10, 2009, 8:46pm

> 4

The Newberry Library is definitely a pilgrimage I have yet to make. Shame on me...!

Don't miss their Book Fair, July 22 - 26! (Everything is half-price on Sunday.)

Jun 10, 2009, 9:55pm

I'm a former Chicagoan, and when I was recently back for a visit I had an enjoyable time browsing Quimby's in Wicker Park. I used to love going to Stars Our Destination when it was in Lakeview. It moved to Evanston and I lost track of it after that.

Editado: Jun 11, 2009, 11:16am

I lost Stars Our Destination when it moved to Evanston. Now I live in Evanston and it's not here. Gone for good, I fear? You can find it on LT local, listed as "defunct."

I have a very fond memory of meeting Del Close while shopping for science fiction books in Lakeview. We strolled down Clark Street chatting about the Necronomicon. That was back in the day when there were more than a dozen used bookshops in the mile or so of Clark Street heading north from Fullerton.

Jun 11, 2009, 1:10pm

Oh well I can only second all the Hyde Park recommendations but I don't get down there as much now.

Bookcellar is good and of course Myopic but I am not in the neighborhood much either.

I have a few downtown recommendations as I like to slip out from work and be amongst the books. There is a downtown Powell's which is nice and has a cavernous basement.

Selected Works (used books) which is fun to go to because it is in the old Fine Arts building and an elevator operator has to take you to the second floor and there is a new store kitten, Hodge (the old store cat passed away).

Shockingly I only found Sandmeyer's this year which is on Dearborn close to some other Printer's Row book shops. They have a great children's selection and a nicely chosen set of new books and the people that work there are friendly.

In Evanston, I always liked Bookman's Alley because it felt like finding some secret little bookstore since the entrance is on the alley but it does have more antiquarian selections.

Jun 22, 2009, 5:38pm

Anyone ever been to Printer's Row Rare and Fine books? The most expensive store in the city by far, with most books very overpriced, but the owner is known to have some of the rarest books out there so he is definitely catering to the higher-end clients. I think Hemingway is one of his specialties. The guy is really quirky, but is very nice and likes to talk (and I like to listen). Worth the trek to Printer's Row

Jun 22, 2009, 8:07pm

Printers Row isn't a trek, at least for me! Yes, it's an expensive store, but a lovely one.

Jul 4, 2009, 1:37am

Anyone know of a Google Maps-style mash-up of bookstores in Chicago? I've considered starting one myself but ... haven't. Would love a reference like that, especially one with suggestions / content from LT users.

Jul 13, 2009, 1:16am

I prefer to buy brand new, deeply discounted hardcover books; so my favorite is the Bargain Bookstore in Lansing, IL. Lots of remainders and remainder marks, but I always find something I like to add to my library.

Jul 19, 2009, 11:07pm

After all of the positive reviews of Myopic in Chicago, my wife and I went on a pilgrimage there today and were horribly disappointed. The ambiance was nice, but the only thing I really liked about it was the round table upstairs. The books were of quite a low quality; a cheap, torn, small book of Plato's Republic ran 3.50 when I wouldn'tve paid 0.50 for it.
I guess it is sort of what you want; I personally like antiquarian and collectible books. Not that they need to make up the whole of the bookstore, but there should at least be one section. The "rarest" books I found there were a couple of Heritage Press books that were also terribly overpriced. So I guess I post this as a warning to other book collectors that like rarer or fine books: Myopic is not the place for you. If you are that hipster type and are into criticism and women's studies, this is the place for you.

Jul 20, 2009, 1:29am

Here's another vote for Bookman's Alley up in Evanston ... every book/bookstore lover should make a pilgrimage up there at some point!


Editado: Ago 6, 2009, 4:50pm

Powell's Bookstore on Lincoln Avenue north of Diversey is a good store for used books and remainders (owner Brad Jonas is a celebrity in the remainder world). There's another one on South Wabash, around 800 south.

Ago 6, 2009, 9:39pm

Sadly the one on South Wabash is closing. All the books there are half price right now but they were already starting to box things up (perhaps for other Powell's locations) when I was last there.

Fev 10, 2010, 11:31am

I'll put in a big vote for Centuries and Sleuths in my suburb--Forest Park. They specialize in history, mysteries, and biography. Very friendly and helpful. They often have author events, and since they are small you'll have a good chance to have a personal chat with the author.

It's on Madison Street, which is a destination in itself, with lots of interesting boutiques, antique stores, and yummy restaurants. Take the Blue line or the Green Line out to Harlem, and then walk a bit to Madison. Great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday!

Fev 10, 2010, 12:18pm

A group of friends and I have a sometime "Explore Chicago" series, an excuse to pick a new area of the city, grab some food, and learn about our neighbours. I've added Forest Park (Madison Street) to my list of suggestions.

Maio 1, 2010, 4:07pm

Bundles of Books in Glen Ellyn, IL is a great one. 3 stories of almost all used paperbacks in fairly good condition. ALL different genres of fiction & non. The owner, Rosemary, is super friendly, knowledgeable and talkative!
I'm an author and crazy-reader, so I know her because of that, but I actually first met her last year. In addition to writing, my wife and I run an interior design business and Rosemary hired us to redesign her store! :)

Nov 4, 2010, 12:23pm

So I am primarily an antiquarian bookcollector, and I did a recent Chicago bookstore pilgrimage of the supposedly 10 best used bookstores
I was really unimpressed. The only decent used bookstore with a decent antiquarian selection is Printer's Row Fine and Rare Books, and he is just grossly overpriced to the point where I could go online with any of his books and literally buy another copy for half his price online. The two hyde park bookstores are also pretty good, but this definitely makes Chicago a pretty poor town for used books.

Nov 4, 2010, 2:07pm

Uh, that article kinda sucks. For instance, they say that Powell's is "in the Loop," when (as the 57th St address demonstrates) it's actually in Hyde Park. Some of those later entries were evidently added by readers, and there are bookstores missing that certainly compare favorably to the ones listed.

Since you are an antiquarian book collector, you probably know that "used book store" is not synonymous with "antiquarian bookstore," the latter being a decidedly distinct subset of the former. So it's not surprising that the list at huffpo didn't cater to your desires.

I do share your estimation of Printer's Row Fine & Rare. The Chicago Rare Book Center is actually on the south side of Evanston, not Chicago, but that's only about a mile from the city's northern edge, and they have good antiquarian selections. Other than that, I couldn't really tell you, since I am not much in the market for aged tomes. (With the occasional exception of those in my specialty fields.)

Nov 4, 2010, 2:29pm

I don't think I have been to Chicago Rare Book Center. I will make my way up there. I also agree that the article is not great, and doesn't take into account the suburban stores, but it was just a jumping off point.
Personally, I am a big theology collector, and it seems like Powells is the only one with a decent collection in this area. I would expect some Tillich and other UofC guys in Chicago, but it seems like there really isn't a good collection of that stuff around here.

Nov 4, 2010, 2:34pm

chase.donaldson, have you visited Bookman's Alley (in Evanston, as noted in >8 Marensr: above)?

I went on occasion while living in Evanston, but that was 10+ years ago and I was not interested in antiquarian books at that time. I've been meaning to go back, now that I might find things of interest. I'd be interested to get your take.

Nov 4, 2010, 3:05pm

> 22

Were you around when Ex Libris Theological Books was over on 55th Street? I loved browsing there.

Nov 4, 2010, 4:46pm

The Book Table in Oak Park, on Lake St in downtown Oak Park. Great selection; if they don't have it they can order books they don't have and they get there in two days. Great prices: I bought a brand new copy of softcover "Lords of Finance" by Ahamed for only $14.25 instead of publisher's price $18.00 - plus owners are smart and seem intimately familiar with most recent titles. Also, The Book Table is the only place I know in the Oak Park area where you can buy the most recent issue of the Times Literary Supplement (TLS).

Nov 4, 2010, 8:19pm

> 22 If you are looking for theology books, I would strongly encourage you to try Richard Owen Roberts in Wheaton. http://www.rorbooks.com/

Nov 4, 2010, 10:41pm

Chase, it's well worth a ride up the Brown line to three good used bookstores in Evanston: Chicago Rare Book Center (just off the Main St. stop), Bookman's Alley, and Amaranth Books (both just off the Davis stop).

Chicago Rare Book Center has a downstairs that's easy to miss, but most of the good stuff is on the main floor.

Amaranth is small but neat and well organized, and the prices are reasonable. I've picked up a few used Folio Society, Heritage Press, and Limited Editions Club books there.

Bookman's Alley is as much fun for the decor throughout its meandering rooms as the many books. Also many Folios and Heritage books throughout, plus a few shelves of mostly LEC editions in the back. Not cheap, though.

That article seems long out of date and not well researched. I visited Myopic Books once and don't plan to go back--mostly used paperbacks and hardcovers, not terribly well cared for. Bookman's Corner is a deathtrap: I fully expect the owner's desiccated remains to be discovered one day under a pile of books and the rubble of collapsed shelves.

Editado: Nov 4, 2010, 11:38pm

> 26

And he does some gorgeous bindings, too.

Nov 4, 2010, 11:47pm

> 27

Agree on your take of Bookman's Corner. Like a scavenger hunt, you may or may not find anything, if that's not fun, not recommended.

Ravenswood Books is a bit like that, too. But it's in my neighbourhood, and I like the fact it's there rather than another currency exchange or licquor store or whatnot. And two windows down, the proprietor posts political rants against Mayor Daley and pretty much all else, makes for entertaining reading.

Nov 5, 2010, 12:16am

Thanks for all of the recommendations! I will venture up on the brown line and check out those stores. And yes Bookman's Corner was kind of sad, and indeed a death trap. I guess the owner has been trying to get out of the business for years but hasn't been able to find a buyer of his inventory (which doesn't surprise me much).
Thanks for the Wheaton recommendation as well. Unfortunately he isn't open on the weekends, but I will certainly check it out as my inlaws are from Winfield

Nov 5, 2010, 12:17am

And yes, Myopic Bookstore was probably the most epic disappointment of my Chicago pilgrimages. If you are into the occult and bizarre sexuality books, that is the place for you.

Nov 5, 2010, 12:59am

chase.donaldson, I think mboudreau meant you should take the Purple Line, since that's what goes to Evanston. If you take the Brown Line, it won't get you anywhere close to Evanston.

Nov 5, 2010, 7:29am

>32 dkathman:
Yes, my mistake, the Purple line to Evanston.

Nov 5, 2010, 8:53am

In defense of Myopic, it's actually a pretty good shop, but not for antiquarian tastes. It's basically a Half-Price Books, but with no remainders, plus extra "hipness." As someone "into the occult and bizzare sexuality books" myself, I can say it's okay but not exceptional in those categories. (Nearby Quimby's does well, though.) My most recent Myopic buys have been lit-crit, actually. If you're selling books, Myopic gives quite fair prices to walk-ins during their buying hours.

Nov 5, 2010, 9:18am

thanks...i knew that too but it was late

Dez 9, 2010, 12:04am

Will be visiting the Evanston bookstores tomorrow. Will report on my findings.

Dez 9, 2010, 12:30am

Looking forward to it! It may prompt a visit of my own.

Dez 10, 2010, 1:49pm

So I went on a fine pilgrimage to Evanston yesterday and visited Amareth, Chicago Rare Books Center, and Bookman's Alley. It was a nice day, and my wife somewhat begrudgingly accompanied me, but generally we had a fine time.

1. Chicago Rare Books Center - I started off here. It is a nice, cozy, comfy place with a lot of interesting rare books. For instance, they have the 4 volume Ricardi Press set of Morte D'Arthur and some other very rare volumes. They also have the 3 volume leather set of Kipling's Poems signed by the author, what I think was a first edition of Huckleberry Finn, and a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff, much of which is interesting. They also have a niche for children's books, which the female owner is very proud of and is sort of her speciality. I met the owner, who was older, thin, and very friendly. She loved to talk and we got caught up in a long conversation. She is a little on the neurotic side, but aren't we all? There was another gentleman in a brown, tattered sportcoat who was also very friendly and enthusiastic in a reserved sort of way. I believe he is the manager of the bookstore, but perhaps is a co-owner as well. The selection here is very nice, but the prices are pretty expensive. Interestingly enough, however, I felt like the prices on their higher-end books were much more in line with "market value" than those on the lower end. I almost bought a paperback of Keats' poems with some nice annotation, but broke out my blackberry and found that it was pretty expensive relative to the online market so I sheathed my wallet, although my wife made out with a few more contemporary hardcovers. They also have a decent selection of Limited Editions Club books, but he is quite high on these as well. Overall, a very nice experience, and I will certainly be back.

2. We next trekked to Amareth. It is a smaller store with a less than friendly owner, but not rude or anything like that. I think he is just a quieter chap. This store was great. They have quite a few of Folio Society books, and they have a great selection, although they have fewer rare books. They do have the Folio Society Surinam Album as well as the 2-volume Oxford University Press of William Blake's Illustrations for Night Thoughts. They pretty much had everything I was looking for and was pretty complete. However, what really makes this place shine is its prices. The prices are all right on, so if you ever wanted to buy something and not worry about shopping around for best prices, this place is where you should go. Once again, a nice store with excellent prices, though not quite with the antiquarian selection I was looking for.

3. Bookman's Alley. What can I say, but this is now my absolute favorite bookshop in city. Huge antiquarian selection, strange knick-knacks everywhere, even a full cast iron printing press in the back. Jazz music in the background, comfortable, though somewhat tacky seats everywhere. Also a very good selection of ephemera prints. To my liking, they had a huge Limited Editions Club selection, huge antiquarian selection, and some gems such as the 2-volume Beardsley illustrated Morte d'Arthur (for $7K) and numerous other gems. The only thing that this store has against it is the pricing. Its like he sees a book and just throws out a number that he sees fit, and it is never on the low side. He is notorious for not having an online presence, and this is probably why he has such a pricing issue. I overheard him not being willing to give some well-to-do Russian couple a discount on a few expensive looking books, so I assume that he is rather strict with his prices. He clearly is like the Printer's Row Fine and Rare Books in that both seem perfectly happy not to sell anything. Oh well...I will be back for the atmosphere and the selection, but will certainly not be buying anything anytime soon.

Thanks to everyone here for pointing me towards these bookstores and getting me out of Chicago. How ironic that in the big city of Chicago, that a good portion of the best bookstores in the area aren't even in the city!

Dez 10, 2010, 2:58pm

Glad you enjoyed your Evanston trip, Chase!

I agree with you about Chicago Rare Books pricing. One of the owners once remarked to me that they really made all of their money on big-ticket items, and I couldn't help thinking to myself that this was probably a function of a) their name, and b) the relatively high prices on the more pedestrian stock.

Dez 10, 2010, 8:36pm

I'll have to get up to Evanston one of these days. I live in Andersonville in the city (5400 N), not too far away, but have never been to any of these three places.

Dez 10, 2010, 9:21pm

I'll be up in Andersonville on Monday. Any bookstores up there? My wife and I are also big antique folk so if you have any recommendations, they would be much appreciated!

Dez 10, 2010, 10:05pm

#41: Re: Andersonville & Environs

Women and Children First, 5233 N Clark St, feminist, socially aware, interesting author talks.

Book Cellar, 4736 N Lincoln, really don't know them other than they are "there."

On the antique side, Architectural Artifacts, 4325 N Ravenswood, roughly 2 acres of really interesting (stained glass, bars, fireplace mantels. Very high end generally but fascinating.

Dez 10, 2010, 11:54pm

There's also the Edgewater Antique Mall and the Broadway Antique Market, within a couple of blocks of each other.

If you get hungry, try Antica Pizzeria for dinner.

Dez 10, 2010, 11:54pm

There's also the Edgewater Antique Mall and the Broadway Antique Market, within a couple of blocks of each other.

If you get hungry, try Antica Pizzeria for dinner.

Dez 11, 2010, 12:10am

Women and Children First is the only bookstore in Andersonville. The Book Cellar is in Lincoln Square, not all that close -- a couple of miles away. As for antiques, you could check out the Brown Elephant, at Clark and Balmoral (5400 N) -- it's a resale shop with a wide variety of old stuff.

Dez 11, 2010, 7:04pm

Chase: I should have mentioned that there are several other places in Andersonville other than the Brown Elephant that are more properly antique stores, most notably Brownstone Antiques at 5234 N. Clark. It's packed with stuff. Across the street from that is the Landmark, which has things for sale from all different kinds of sellers, including some antiques and similar stuff, on four levels. Actually, I just looked on Andersonville's web site, and there are several other stores listed there under "Antiques and Collectibles", some of which I've never been to:


Jan 26, 2011, 5:46pm

It’s pretty specialized, but Alchemy Arts at Bryn Mawr and Broadway.